Friday, October 31, 2008


I just stole a piece (okay, several pieces) of candy out of Danny's trick-or-treat jack-o-lantern. He's still young enough that he has no idea what was in there before he went to bed, unlike Clare, who catalogued the items with glee. As I poked around in there, I caught a whiff of that smell I remember so well from my own childhood Halloweens. You know, that smell of a big pile of candy, all mixed together and just waiting to be devoured.

We've had the decorations, the orange lights, and the Halloween books out for a few weeks now. The costumes have been waiting in the closets, the subject of plenty of conversation and planning. Compared with our childhoods, Halloween has a lot more fanfare these days, which is fun. But I also worried that with so much build up, the main event would wind up disappointing. I'm happy to report that this was not the case for Clare and Danny today - and not just because they both wound up with a hefty supply of treats, though that didn't hurt.

No, from the minute it was time to put on the costumes, they were fired up. This was particularly fun in Danny's case, because at his age we couldn't be guaranteed that he'd be willing to wear his shark costume, much less be excited about it. Fortunately, he loved it, and embraced its spirit whole-heartedly. You may not have known this, but sharks roar.

For the third year in a row we participated in the neighborhood Halloween event, whereby the kids line up in one of the neighbor's driveways and then parade down a designated street, "trick-or-treating" along the neighbors that have lined up to watch them process by. It works very well for our neighborhood, because we have so many small children, and our streets are so hilly. After the procession we all get together at one of the neighbor's homes for a happy hour-type event that this year involved pizza. The weather was spectacular, so we were able to stay outside the whole time and chat with each other while the kids enjoyed the swing-set, or played baseball (Danny), or just ran around and enjoyed their sugar highs.

Halloween is pretty darn great for kids. But we're finding that it's also pretty fun for we parents, too!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Plane Truth

Every Sunday I take a vacation. Sadly, it's only an imaginary one, and worse yet I don't get to choose the destination. That is instead the dictate of the AJC's Travel section of the Sunday paper. As soon as I ferret it out of the rest of the advertisements, classifieds, etc. (the Sports section having been retrieved long before by Tim), I take a poll among the family to get them to guess where I'm headed. (Without fail, Danny guesses "yoga," so he's not exactly clear on the concept.) Thanks to the Magic Tree House books, Clare has a variety of destinations she can now suggest. I think she was right once, but since Jack and Annie don't typically go on Caribbean cruises or take romantic getaways within a three-hour radius of Atlanta, the odds aren't great for her, either.

Reading the travel section is sometimes fun for me, and sometimes makes me ache for the freedom of the days before kids, when a trip to Europe or Napa was possible. It also gets me to thinking about what our kids' perception of travel is, and the privileges and opportunities it presents. I'm pretty sure their perspective is a bit skewed, and the following numbers will illustrate why.

While booking our holiday travel a few days ago, we discovered that Clare has almost earned a round-trip ticket via frequent flier miles. This alone is only modestly impressive. After all, Clare is five and a half. The ticket, though, is on Delta, an airline we have flown only since we moved to Atlanta three years ago. Nor have we flown them exclusively. Nor has she earned miles for every trip we've taken, because thanks to Tim's previous positions that entailed a fair amount of travel, we have probably been able to get approximately 40% of her tickets on frequent flier miles.

This begs the question: just how much do these kids (and their parents) fly? In 2008 alone, by the time Christmas rolls around, we will have made eight trips: four to Buffalo, and four to California. As I pondered this, I just had to tally up how many flights I estimate Clare has taken in her five+ years: pre-2008, she took 31 trips. So by the end of this year, she will have taken almost 40 round-trip plane rides. FORTY! Which doesn't even factor in the driving trips we've taken to Florida, Charleston, yadda yadda.

I like to think that my kids will appreciate the chances to visit their grandparents, cousins, and cool places. I'm fairly certain that they take it all a bit for granted, and I suppose that is most people's 21st century attitude toward air travel. We really can get anywhere we want in a relatively short amount of time, and thank heavens, since so many of us live far from loved ones. I hope Clare and Danny will always have a love for seeing new places and seize as many opportunities to travel as they can.

And I really hope they remember dear old mom and dad, and throw us a plane ticket here and there...they clearly owe us a few!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Oh, the joys of home ownership. That beautiful wooded area behind our house, which the two-story windows in our great room showcase so well, and which is one of the things that really sold us on this particular house? Just cost us a pretty penny today, thanks to the two dead (and very large) oaks. They posed a serious threat to our house, and possibly a neighbor's, should they have been knocked down during a storm, so we finally hired someone to take them down.

What a process! The best part, though, is that not only was one of the two workers dangling from a significant height, with a running chainsaw hanging next to him, but he also had a lit cigarette in his mouth. Spectacular!

The scene was enough to rivet Danny and least for a while (or maybe they were just taking a milk break):

Ultimately, though, they were swept up in whatever game big sisters Clare and Olivia concocted in Danny's room, which resulted in this:

That would be Quincy, held captive in Danny's crib and sporting a newborn cap. But did he run away from them? Nooooooooo. Another successful kitty visit for Olivia!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Field Trippin' II: The Next Generation

I will be the first to admit that I was a big, fat scrooge when it came to anticipating Danny's class trip to the pumpkin patch at Berry Patch Farms. This is the fourth year in a row that I have made such an excursion, and the routine never varies. You arrive and look at the few farm animals, play on the swing set, and then your class boards the tractor-led wagon for a hayride to the pumpkin patch (which is actually a field they hand-fill with pumpkins, one area laden with baby pumpkins, the other with larger specimens). After frolicking in the fields and choosing your own tiny pumpkin as a memento, you get to take another hayride back to the starting point, where you are greeted with a dixie cup filled with their freshly made apple cider.

Not only is this my fourth year in a row, but it's Danny's third. Of course, the first year he was a mere five months old (and a cranky five months at that). Last year he had just learned to walk a couple of weeks prior to the visit, so he was pretty distracted. This year, though, he soaked it all in, and as a result I had a much better time than I thought I would.

First of all, he got to run around in the beautiful early fall weather with friends, including Parker's big brother Brady (who Danny thinks hung the moon, on the rare occasions he's near such greatness):

For the hay ride, he found himself in the coveted spot on the wagon closest to the driver and the tractor wheels:

And after the excitement of touching pumpkins, running through the fields, and being silly with friends, there was the cup of deliciously sweet cider waiting for him:

It just doesn't get any better. I suppose this day can be added to the other bajillion reminders my kids give me about the simple pleasures of life.

As for we mommies, I think you can guess who the Tin Man is in this picture, because Amy has a much bigger heart when it comes to these things (not that I'm calling her cowardly...guess the analogy falls apart here):

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pumpkin Season

Ever since Tim and I hit the pumpkin patch jackpot in the Chicago suburbs at Goebbert's Farm (with 18-month-old Clare), we've been seeking an equal experience ever since. In years past we've been to Berry Patch Farms, Cagle's Dairy Farm, Burt's Farm, and today we added Stone Mountain's Pumpkin Festival to our squash-laden resume of fall activity.

It's a bit of a split decision between Tim and I on Stone Mountain, at least as far as the touristy part goes. The surrounding park is gorgeous, especially on a sunny October day such as today's. The "Crossroads" area is where we diverge. It bills itself as an 1870s southern town, and it reminds me a lot of Disneyland. I think Tim would agree that it's well done, but he has a hard time getting past the very diverse crowd of attendees. For example, the large, gray-bearded man in the camouflage-like overalls. No, he wasn't an employee. Regardless, the kids had a terrific time. They painted pumpkins, colored animal masks, decorated crowns, watched a show, and went through a maze that emptied into an area filled with tons of bubbles. The one disappointment was the actual pumpkin patch, because a) it wasn't that big, and b) it would have been too far to lug pumpkins back to the car.

Nevertheless, our annual tradition of making a family trip to a pumpkin patch has been fulfilled. And you all know how we feel about tradition.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mad Libs

I love it when I'm right. While cruising the bookstore the other day, I came across Mad Libs Junior (a Halloween version, no less), and a light bulb went off. I just knew this would be right up Clare's alley, if introduced at the right time. So this afternoon when she arrived home from school and Danny was still sleeping, I thought I'd give it a try. Home run for Mommy! We did the first couple together, and then while I went to get the Danimal up, she started filling in the next one on her own. We read the results together, and her howls were the very definition of side-splitting. Finally, a productive way to channel her penchant for silliness!

Clare obviously comes by her appreciation of and amusement over words naturally, because look at this: my 100th post! I view the milestone as an opportunity to revamp the look of things, which is why See More Seymours has a whole new design. Thanks for reading - and please continue to do so!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Gal Pal

I don't spend a great deal of time reflecting on the fact that Clare is my daughter. She's my child, of course, and as her mother I work hard to give her the love, discipline, encouragement and structure that I believe she needs - as well as her brother. I remember my mom telling me, upon hearing the news from our first ultrasound that we were going to have a girl, that she was so pleased I was going to have a daughter...and many times since then I've wondered why. Ha! I'm mostly joking, although I do think Clare and I butt heads more than I do or will with Danny. I probably have higher expectations of Clare, because I've been in her shoes and want her to wear mine someday, so to speak. Whereas Danny is a totally foreign creature. (Hey, I know you all know what I'm talking about. We don't call him the Danimal for nothing.)

Anyway, yesterday was the kind of day where I really had a chance to appreciate Clare, both as an individual and as a girl. It started the minute I woke up yesterday, or should I say the minute Clare woke me up. Typically Clare wakes up sometime between 6-7. Thanks to the handy digital clock on her nightstand, she knows that when it turns 7, she can come downstairs (on the weekends; during the week we're out of the house by 7:05). Thanks to the ineptness of Georgia Power (and possibly the strong winds), we were out of power from 1-7:30 a.m. Sunday morning. So when Clare woke to total darkness at 6:16 a.m., she panicked (no night light! no clock!) and started crying for me. I anticipated this when the power initially went out, so I made my bleary-eyed way to her room and figured we were ready to start the day. Once I explained to her what had happened, she was fine, and then suggested we go back to bed. Sure! Oh, wait, she meant both of us in her room. Now, Clare never asks us to lay with her, and never tries to come into our bed except on weekends when we go in to wake up Daddy, so I opted to accept her invitation, especially because it was not issued in a whiny manner. It was a rare morning where Danny was actually still asleep, so the two of us got to lounge together in her bed for the next 45 minutes. We didn't exactly snuggle - Clare is simply not a very cuddly kid - but we definitely passed some quality time together. Sometimes she would make pleasant conversation, asking what is my favorite book, etc. Other times we just rested our eyes and enjoyed the lazy moment.

Once our Sunday got going, and the power returned, we slipped back into our usual routine of getting bagels, going to church, etc. I had told Clare that after quiet time we were going to head to Target to find her some shoes, and she was very excited. She loves to shop, especially for herself. Which is a good thing, because her Flintstone feet are very difficult to fit. When she first emerged from quiet time, she seemed a tad tired and grumpy, so I wasn't sure what to expect from our shopping excursion. She perked up once she saw me with my purse, though, and asked if she could bring one of her own. Absolutely, I responded, as long as she realized that she was the one who would carry it. Armed with her purse containing her princess cell phone and camera, plus a pair of sunglasses, she was ready.

I knew it was a good sign when she opted to sit in the row right behind me, as opposed to the seat in the way back. We chatted amiably about what a good idea it is to wear sunglasses, and the bonus fact that they make you look cool. When we got to Target she made sure to take off her sunglasses when I took off mine, and in general tried to emulate me as much as possible. At one point, probably after we got our Starbucks, Clare said to me, "I like hanging out with you," and I remember that I had just been thinking the same thing. We struck out in the Target shoe department, but even that was a pleasant experience, because she remained chipper, and also because I was pleased that she wasn't determined to make cute Hello Kitty shoes work simply because she liked the way they looked. We decided to head to the mall and try our luck at Payless, where we succeeded. As we walked hand-in-hand on our way to the car, I felt very blessed. I won't go so far as to jinx myself by saying that perhaps the teen years won't be as bad as I fear, but I will say that I like having a daughter to gal pal around with. I see a lifetime of shopping joy ahead of us. (Haven't said it in a while: Just work harder, Tim.)

Here's Clare at around age three, wearing the same sunglasses:

Saturday, October 11, 2008

These are the people in our neighborhood

...the people that we meet (almost) each day. We are fortunate to live in a vibrant community with lots of families - and even more kids! This afternoon was the bi-annual neighborhood BBQ. There was not an official count taken, but many of us noticed that the adults were close to being outnumbered. With the amount of pregnant women in attendance, the ratio will most certainly have changed by our next gathering, too! What a difference a couple of years makes.

We had a beautiful fall day, which enticed a good number of people to abandon the television and be social. (Tim retreated back inside for the fourth quarter, which in retrospect is too bad. Our lucky shirts are no longer lucky.) It's amazing what a grill, a few coolers, and an inflatable jumpy house plus bikes and scooters can do for a group!

In the above photo you'll see me with Linda (far left, holding Anna, Amy's baby) and Amy (far right). Linda, Amy and I are the original trio forming the East Gate Book Club (you know, the ones who ambitiously chose to read War and Peace...and will have to find something else to talk about at that meeting).

Danny LOVES these gatherings and loves that the dads let him feel like one of the guys when they're throwing the football or playing the beanbag game. Below, Eric helps him train to be a kicker for ND.

Clare also loves these events, primarily because she is truly a social creature, but also because she gets to play the "big girl" to several two- and three-year-old little girls. Here she is, enjoying dinner with Kiki (left) and Sophie (right):

Thanks to Susana's idea, we had a table set up where the kids could paint pumpkins. Danny got way more into this than I would have suspected, but naturally got more paint on himself than on the pumpkin.

Here's a picture of Allyson and her son Jack. Allyson will soon become famous via The Finicky Files.

And last but not least, here's a picture of me and Crystal. Crystal is the enormously talented photographer who took our family photo last year and will take the kids' picture again in a couple of weeks. Her husband Jeff is the neighborhood HOA president, and I just have so much appreciation for everything he does. (Hey, Jeff, I bet if Crystal posted something like that on her blog, you'd say it was cheesy. Oh well!)

You may have noticed that the jumpy house seems to be taking a beating in the background. The kids were all gathered on the side of it. That item has been worth its weight in gold, at East Gate gatherings alone!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Field Trippin'

Whoa. It's been eight hours, and my head is still spinning after today's experience, also known as chaperoning the Christ the King Kindergarten Field Trip to Cagle's Dairy Farm. By the numbers, it looks like this: 75 kindergarteners + 2 yellow school buses = 1 more affirmation that I did not miss my calling as a teacher. Did I mention the trip was 45 minutes each way?

The kids, naturally, had a ball. And who can blame them? To start, it was the first time on a yellow bus for just about all of them. I might also add that it was the first outing for this particular bus (they now have seat belts, which is a good upgrade). I was about to write that the bus would probably never be the same, but nobody puked, or peed, or bled (at least as far as I know), so in bus terms it was an easy day. On the other hand, it was l.o.u.d. Punctuated by we adults constantly reminding kids to keep their legs facing front, their hands to themselves, their feet off of the seat in front of them, and their voices to a low roar. I think what I find most amazing is that I was at times so stern, downright cranky even, and the kids - total strangers to me until today - would still smile broadly and engage me either in conversation or that time-honored tradition of rock, paper, scissors. According to Charlie, who was monitoring my match with Jolie, I lost 200-1. I beg to differ, but if it helped pass the time, who am I to argue?

The dairy farm itself was pretty interesting, particularly to these suburban-dwelling kids. The first stop (well, after the restroom) was in the calf barn, where they bring the calves right after they're born and keep them until 4-5 months old. So very, very cute. After the tour guide did a bit of "this is this, that is that," the kids got to feed and pet the calves. As you can imagine, this was pretty well-received.

At the next stop we saw the milking machine in action on a live, enormous cow named Rosie. No more sitting on a stool and squeezing the udders for dairy farmers these days! I don't think the kids were as riveted by this, probably because the machine shattered their illusions that they would get to milk the cows. Oh well. Even less interesting to them was the part where we saw the milk get transferred into the gallon-size containers. It was somewhat of a yawn, especially when the words "pasteurization," "agricultural," "processing," and more were thrown around in voices that didn't quite cut it. However, from here we got to move on to the hay ride!

The first stop (pause, really) on the hay ride was outside the corral with the pregnant cows. Darn large animals. But the next stop was way cooler. We saw a dog, Tib, follow voice commands and corral the cows - around our wagon! Here's a view of the big, big cows running our way:

And here's just how close they got to us:

After this, much to the relief of the starving (so they said, though the amount of uneaten sandwiches would imply otherwise) kiddos, it was time for lunch. We had to pack our own, but we did get fresh, cold chocolate milk from the dairy, which I believe each child pronounced delectable. One more interminable potty break later (more numbers: 75 kindergarteners, 6 bathrooms) and it was back on the bus. Phew! This ride was a tad quieter, but not so much that I could relax my watch enough to play with my iPhone (much). Bummer.

I can't sign off without a photo to prove to Amy that I really did go:

And I really did enjoy seeing Clare with her classmates. But next time, I might dodge the teacher's phone call...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Carnival kids

When I was a young lass in parochial school, I greatly enjoyed the annual "Fiesta," which was the Southern California version of a carnival or festival. I have vivid memories of the blue-and-white or yellow-and-white striped booths, which contained all manner of games and food. There was a mini-midway set up on the field, not to mention the stage which featured live entertainment performed by the kids (this is a picture of second grade me in line before our class sang).

I also remember that my parents were never overly thrilled to attend, and even less enthusiastic about their volunteer duties manning the "ping-pong ball in the glass" or other such activity. Nevertheless, they gamely went to support the school and satisfy their daughter (and not necessarily in that order).

Today we went as a family to the Christ the King Fall Carnival, and I'm pretty sure I have a better understanding of my parents' attitude toward the Fiesta. Of course, Clare and Danny are younger than I was when it was Fiesta season, which means a) they required a lot more monitoring, and b) we probably derived more "isn't that cute" moments out of the simpler things, such as Danny's attempt to kick the full-size soccer ball into the hole that was about as high as his head. They really did have a blast, though.

Clare went through this obstacle course no fewer than six times:

And always enjoyed the free fall ending after the fifty feet or so of crawling, climbing, and maneuvering:

Danny, meanwhile, was primarily interested in popcorn, at least until he and Daddy discovered the area with the bean bag toss and "hillbilly golf" (ask Tim). I must note that popcorn, as opposed to cotton candy, slushies, etc., is the primary focus for both of my children, and would probably get them excited to watch paint dry.

Once Clare had expended enough physical energy on the jumpy houses and obstacle course, she found the art area and made a bracelet, necklace, key chain, and then "spin art" with her friend and classmate Isabella:

In fact, Clare bumped into several classmates at the carnival, and her enthusiasm about it was infectious. Her joyful attitude about school is worth the price of tuition - and the $20 in tickets we bought today, too.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Nine years

Today Tim and I celebrate our ninth wedding anniversary. We're almost incredulous to reflect on that time, because it was before kids - which feels like a lifetime ago. It's been a busy nine years, too:

Oct. 2, 1999: We got married in Chicago.

August, 2001: We moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, where Tim began MBA school at UVA.

March 25, 2003: Clare was born

May, 2003: Tim graduated

July, 2003: We moved back to Chicago and closed on our first home, a tiny condo in Lincoln Park

May 4, 2005: We moved to Atlanta and closed on our current home in the fine neighborhood of East Gate at Vinings Estates!

May 1, 2006: The Danimal was born

We've enjoyed the stability of the past three years here in ATL, and we're hopeful that it will continue. Naturally, there are times when you always look ahead and wonder where you'll be. On certain days more than others, I think about those empty nest days, and I have to say that I really do anticipate them happily. Which I think is the highest compliment I can pay to Tim and to our marriage.

Here's to us!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The success of friends

Defeated. That would be the best word to describe how I have felt over the past few days. To put it succinctly, Danny is not potty trained. Not even close. And so, after far too much angst, I slapped a pull-up on his little behind yesterday afternoon and called it quits on my efforts.

When I woke up this morning, I felt the strangest mixture of relief and disappointment. I was so relieved that I could carry on with my usual schedule, go on outings, and most importantly not follow Danny's every move, waiting to pounce on the beginnings of an accident. But I was also really disappointed that I had failed, or chosen to give up. Part of me considered trying for just one more day. When I reviewed the events of the previous days in my mind, though, I recognized that the likelihood of any semblance of success was infinitesimal, whereas the probability that I would blow a gasket was sky high.

So instead Danny and I spent the better part of our morning with Amy and Parker. Along with Jennifer P. (and of course Tim), Amy bore the brunt of my disproportionate frustrations with the potty training. It was the rational, at times soothing words of the three of them that convinced me that perhaps I did not need to continue on this Bataan Death March. In the absence of family here in Atlanta, friends like Amy and Jennifer have become a much-needed and much-loved support network (not to mention source for a lot of fun).

The same is true for our children, who are truly growing up together. Danny and Parker have known each other since in utero! So it has been with great pleasure that Amy and I have witnessed the two of them become giggling, occasionally trouble-brewing buddies. Danny does not have a brother, so it makes me very happy to see that at an early age he is developing friendships to fill that superhero, sword-swinging, truck-loving void.

I may have temporarily failed to potty train Danny (John Rosemond, please forgive me!). But I have succeeded many times over in making wonderful friends, and I am confident that I am training my children to do the same.